Once upon a time (mine) E3 - editorial

Once upon a time (mine) E3 - editorial

Those who have been doing my job for more than 20 years (on Eurogamer we are even two!) Have HDN - Neural Hard Disc - full of memories and images that occasionally reappear to tear you a smile or a tear-pause sob-. The first article published, the first time you see your face in a magazine, the first reader who writes to you to compliment you or who maybe recognizes you on the street, the first magazine you become responsible for, the sleepless nights to close a particularly difficult number, the editorial meetings similar to an evening at the pub, the excitement for the arrival of a particularly awaited game that you could see and try in preview.

Among all these memories, however, only one has remained fixed at the top of the ranking since the beginning: the Press Tours. Those more or less long journeys around the world, to peek behind the scenes of video game development to find the scoop that can make sales fly (today they are called "views"), with flights at unlikely times and catering meals often able to make even a Sarlacc vomit. For the videogame journalist / critic, the Top of the Top were obviously the fairs and among these the most coveted has always been the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, which today I want to tell you through the eyes of those who at the time lived it as a dream come true.

The historic location of E3, the Convention Center. During the days of the fair, a journalist walks through his rooms for an average total of over 20 kilometers. When I left for my first E3, the new century had just begun. I was a "young" offspring who was looking forward to a career as a videogame critic full of hope. After almost two years of apprenticeship, the editorial team chose to add me to the crew of veterans to make me experience and in a sense reward me for the work done during the year. Yes, because at the time participation in E3 was seen as a prize despite the fact that it meant a huge amount of work and very short deadlines. How to blame him: a week (almost) fully paid in sprawling Los Angeles, with a group of colleagues / friends who shared a passion for video games with me, in the most incredible trade fair in the world that gave the opportunity to see and try titles that would only be released months (if not years) later.

Little free time available but a myriad of possibilities to make the most of it and maybe we even missed the final trip to Las Vegas. The flights obviously weren't direct and first class remained a mirage but well so ... hard and pure towards the goal. In 90% of cases the routes were Rome-London and London-Los Angeles for a total of about 12 hours of travel. The only exception was the third E3 I attended, for which the organization had the brilliant idea of ​​choosing the Rome-New York and New York-Los Angeles routes ... a tragedy! The second flight from the Big Apple (about 5 hours abundant) carried out in a plane as big as the one from which Indiana Jones and Short Round are thrown aboard an inflatable boat in the second film of the series.

Add to this the fact that even after hundreds of flights they still don't like air travel because they hate NOT having direct control of the situation. This means total inability to sleep for even just half an hour, but in the end this wouldn't have been a problem if only I hadn't always had narcolepsy adventure companions. At that point the only one was to take refuge in the films shown during the trip and get high with half a dozen Bloody Mary little "Bloody" and very "Mary". Trust me, you'll never know what it's like to take a hellish journey until you've seen Battle for Earth with John Travolta in original language on a low-resolution screen in a Hobbit-sized seat.

At E3 you can meet celebrities. Did you recognize him? He is one of the most iconic and influential characters in the history of video games, the one on the right is Hideo Kojima. Troubled travel aside, another extremely vivid memory concerns the first arrival at LAX airport, gigantic! After overcoming the thrill of never seeing my suitcase again I arrive at the exit, the automatic doors open eagerly ... and I am hit by a combo of deadly smog and persistent fried. Somewhere I should still have a shirt that retains that indelible stench. On the way to the hotel I fed on images that until then I had only seen on TV and imagined myself traveling around the city, shopping wildly, shaking hands with celebrities during an aperitif in Beverly Hills and writing something in the remaining time. I guessed wrong, it was the exact opposite but it could have been worse.

Having lived the E3 in the era of print, obviously the processing times of the articles to be written on the spot were much more relaxed. There was no need to target Google before the others in order not to lose the place in the rankings. However, this does not mean that they were a total vacation. The only days with an almost holiday rhythm were in fact the first two, those before the conferences and the delirium of the fair. After I parked the car in the hotel parking lot (no less than a 6-meter SUV with a displacement close to that of an industrial tractor) and checked in, just enough time for a shower and showed off the first of a long series of VG themed t-shirts, often paired with Bermuda shorts and flip-flops ... you never know when you might want to go for a walk on the beach.

Most of the time we went to the Convention Center to collect the passes and in the absence of bureaucratic problems we continued directly towards the Promenade of Santa Monica, one of the most popular places at the time for what we old people still call "rub". The problem is that almost all the Italian journalists found themselves in the same places, so more than in California it felt like walking in an Outlet on the outskirts of Rome and / or Milan. The last remaining energies of the post-flight day were almost always used for the digestion of the first, true American dinner. Mine was from gastrointestinal trauma: Chili-burger weighing over half a kilo from Johnny Rocket followed by a Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino the size of a garbage can. Fortunately, digestive tablets are more effective than muriatic acid in America.

The best part of E3? The evening parties organized by publishers, often accompanied by gargantuan buffets and sometimes even providing you with a limo. The next day was the only real "free" moment of the entire expedition and everyone spent it as they preferred. In the year of my debut I visited Universal Studios but if you were to go there, do not disdain a trip to Venice Beach (with mandatory tarot reading by the "Psychic Cats"), a heavy shopping session at Amoeba Musica or in endless series of shops on Sunset Boulevard, where I was able to find a hole that only sold luchador masks. Spectacular.

After (quickly) the moments of relaxation, however, began to get serious. The big guns start firing broadsides with the pre-E3 conferences. In support of the sacred trinity Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo there were Electronic Arts, Ubisoft and Square Enix to follow and this forced the editorial groups to separate trying to reach the locations for which they had booked in advance. Here too I would have to tell but perhaps the most epochal episode concerns an MS conference held under strict confidentiality until the day of departure. The journalists selected were very few and they could only enter by showing off a pin that Microsoft itself had sent to their personal address along with a bullet.

Result? We all joined in a group thanks to the guy who distributed the same badges on the back of the venue. Nintendo loved to hold its events at the Kodak Theater (now Dolby Theater) on Hollywood Boulevard and this allowed me to visit the famous street of stars more than once. An absolute disappointment. I imagined it as an eternal red carpet with celebrities walking casually stopping to sign autographs and take pictures with fans. Instead, what I found in front of me was a street similar to those in the suburbs that skirt my city, with dozens of souvenir shops for tourists and live attractions such as the naked cowboy and overweight Spiderman. Before each conference, Toto-announcements were made and almost always failed dramatically. The most surprising? Perhaps the Sony where Ken Kutaragi took the stage showing a UMD to announce the first PlayStation Portable, the PSP. In the same year Konami presented to the world MGS3: Snake Eater ... unforgettable!

In the exhibition space each publisher tried to attract the public not only with games but with billions of lights, live shows and gadgets. If the days dedicated to the conferences were quite busy, NOTHING could prepare me for what I would spend in the days of the actual fair. All the E3s I attended took place in the historic location of the Convention Center, an exhibition space located in Downtown L.A., right next to the legendary Staples Center, the stadium of the Los Angeles Lakers. Every damn day of the fair had the same, devastating start: a breakfast of hot dogs covered with bacon and stuffed with onions and peppers, sold by very kind Mexican dudes who cooked them on plates encrusted like the lungs of a 3-pack smoker. per day.

If I didn't die of a heart attack in those days I have a good chance of getting away with it now. This fat burst of energy pushed us into the Lobby in the south area, where we made a recap of the today's appointments of each member of the editorial staff. These were rarely under 15 and often had very tight time frames which required Bolt-style racing between South and West Hall. From time to time you could take a breather and spend a few minutes in the press room to put the newly assimilated information on file. Sometimes we ventured into the mysterious Kentia Hall, a smaller space (only 15,000 square meters compared to 19,000 in the West and 32,000 in the South) where it was possible to find all the independent exhibitors. It was here that you would often find some Indie games of absolute interest, which almost always found a place only in the last pages of the summary articles. In this sense, the hopes of visibility of young visitors are much greater today.

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Between a closed door presentation and an interview they often did and gladly of the grazing passages in the actual exhibition space, which resembled a sort of video game-themed Las Vegas. A real delirium of titles to try and preview, often very previews, a show capable of generating powerful erections even in the most disenchanted of videogame journalists. If I had to extrapolate a single memory from all those kept in the memory bank "E3" I would have no doubts: my first interview. It was the classic case of being in the right place at the right time, my veteran colleague had a problem and couldn't attend, I who was nearby and strangely free was called to interview ... drum roll. .. Shigeru Miyamoto!

To say that I was sweating like a camel in andropause is an understatement. I prepared the questions (in English) in just under 10 minutes and improvised the rest. I was welcomed by the very kind Shigeru in a small room where there was also the girl who would translate my questions and her answers. It was 15 minutes of ecstasy mixed with performance anxiety but it went well, even more than good. After leaving the room, I took a few seconds to arrange my things and I was joined by the aforementioned girl, who in a faint voice told me that Miyamoto-san would have liked to accompany me to the room where very few journalists were previewing the very first Nintendo model DS. It was 2004 and I touched the sky with a stylus.

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